It’s hard to know where to start with this one. I mean, with Kendall I knew the moment I went into real labor. I lost my mucous plug, had a contraction shortly after and had a baby in my arms about 21 hours after that.
This time, however, there were a lot of false starts. I had my first round of false labor two weeks before Leyna was born. I began experiencing contractions a few hours after my 39 week appointment, and they lasted throughout the evening only to subside after taking Tylenol PM and going to sleep. I knew those contractions weren’t the real thing because they were too short (30-40 seconds) and coming every 2-3 minutes. They also didn’t radiate all the way around my abdomen, even though I still wouldn’t call them painless. That’s the night my mom decided to drive up… just in case, thus insuring that I actually wouldn’t have a baby for a very, very long time.
The following Tuesday I was still pregnant, but at my 40 wk appt. that morning the midwife determined I was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced (a big change from the 2 cm and thick cervix the week before). I left that day feeling confident I would have a new baby by Christmas. So confident, in fact, I finally allowed my mom to buy the baby a Christmas outfit… thus solidly sealing my fate that I would not, actually, have a baby by Christmas.
In the wee hours of Christmas morning, one day after my due date, I began having strong, steady, real contractions. I laid in bed and told myself if they were any worse in an hour, I’d wake everyone up and we’d do the Santa thing with Kendall in the middle of the night (because he totally *got* it this year and would be super disappointed to wake and discover not only were mommy and daddy gone, but that bastard Santa skipped his house, too). I had 5 contractions, 7 minutes apart… then nothing. I drifted back to sleep and we enjoyed our last Christmas as a family of three. It was, to tell the truth, quite perfect. I’m glad she chickened out and decided to keep baking through the holiday.
Following Christmas, I decided it was time to get serious and instated “Shop Until I Pop.” We walked the mall, the outlet mall, Target, any place I could think to spend money on random bits and pieces while simultaneously getting a workout that I was hoping would lead to labor. All that amounted from that was a few random bits of clothing, new shoes for Kendall and a dwindling bank account… but still no baby.
My 41 week appointment was the morning of the 28th. I prepared myself to go in there and learn that I was STILL at 4 cm and 80% effaced. I was ready to hear I’d be one of those poor women who walks around at a 4 for 3 weeks only to be induced. In fact, I was actually thinking maybe it was possible I would be closing up by that point. Maybe I’d be only 2 cm again. Maybe the baby was retreating back into my womb. Maybe she heard me go a little crazy over Christmas with all the chaos and stress and decided she’d actually much prefer to stay inside where Psycho Mommy Of Doom couldn’t touch her.
“I don’t even know how you’re still pregnant,” my midwife said to me after an internal exam revealed I was indeed more than 4 cm dilated. I was sitting at a solid 7, pretty much completely effaced.
I had to work SO HARD to get to 7 cm with Kendall. Like, I had a good 19 hours of REAL labor behind me before I got to 7 with Kendall. And then? He was born about an hour after that. So, yeah… internal freaking out commenced. How was I still pregnant?? And more importantly, how much longer could I stay that way??
Pretty much the only thing keeping a baby from shooting out of my vagina at that point was my water bag of STEEL. Once that popped, my midwife warned me things would probably go really, really fast. We live 3o minutes from the hospital, and that’s without traffic.
So when my midwife suggested she strip my membranes to get contractions going, have me go home and get my things and then meet me at the hospital shortly after to break my water, I nearly jumped off the exam table to kiss her. YES! Let’s do this! Because, uhm, I sure as hell am not doing this on the side of the road… or in my car… or in my bedroom… or any place in between.
The contractions that started after she stripped my membranes (for those of you wondering just what the hell that entails, it’s like she crammed her finger all the way up my cervix and ran it between my bag of water and my uterus, and it was as delightful and comfortable as it sounds) were just like the contractions I’d felt the last two Tuesdays after my internal exams, but maybe a tad more regular, a little stronger, maybe a smidge longer. But still, nothing like “real” contractions. I never had to breathe through any of them. I just went about my business, drove home, told Scott to take the rest of the day off work and started leisurely packing for the hospital. We left about an hour later, calmly drove to the hospital.
I’ll say that on the way to the hospital I was mentally preparing myself for what was to come because, for as easy as it was to get to a 7, I was certain I was going to have to work really hard for the last 3 cm. And as much as I wanted to believe it would go fast, I knew there were no guarantees. Scott and I sort of gave each other mini pep talks on the way there. “You can do this, you’ve done this before, DON’T think about how long it’s going to take,” he said.
We checked in at 12:25. The whole experience was pretty surreal. I felt like I was showing up for a scheduled birth. When I arrived at the desk and stated we were there to “have a baby,” the nurse looked at me like, “riiiiighhhht… this is going to take all night.” I was still chatty and 90% comfortable through my contractions the whole 20 minutes they had me on the monitors in the room while Scott worked on blowing up my labor tub and filling it with water.
I went into it thinking a water birth was a possibility, but I didn’t have my heart set on one. Mainly, I just wanted the water to help manage the pain of the contractions since it seemed to work so well with Kendall. My midwife mentioned she would feel more comfortable delivering the baby if I was out of the water so she could see if the baby’s cord was wrapped around her neck, and I told her I wanted to do what she felt was safest. Since I didn’t have any big water birth plans, I told her I’d be fine with getting out of the tub to push, but followed it with the disclaimer that I couldn’t promise I would be happy and that I wouldn’t be dropping f-bombs when the time came. She seemed okay with that compromise.
I believe my midwife broke my water and released the Niagara Falls of amniotic fluid around 1:15. Like, seriously, WHOA. That was a LOT of water. If that had popped in a public place, I think I might have caused a mini tsunami. Clean up on aisle 8 would have required a lot more than a mop and a stock boy.
They monitored me for a few more minutes and then released me to head to the labor tub. I made a pit stop at the potty to pee since the minute my water broke the baby slid down my birth canal and planted herself firmly on my bladder. I peed, and peed, and then I couldn’t tell when I stopped peeing and just sat there for a few minutes wondering if what was coming out of me was still pee or amniotic fluid. I figured I’d probably broken the record for world’s longest pee at that point and should just go ahead and leak my way over to the labor tub. I remember looking up at the clock as I settled in. It was 1:30.
I spent about 10 minutes just chillin in my warm tub of water, chatting it up with my nurse, midwife and Scott. It was quite leisurely. The contractions were getting stronger, and I had to breathe through them, but at the beginning it really wasn’t bad. That all started to change really quickly, though.
Soon enough, the contractions got angry. It scared me a little how fast that happened. I could feel them in my legs, like on the top of my quads, which made the laid back position I’d taken in the tub not so comfy since I couldn’t stretch out completely. As each contraction approached, I cued everyone in the room in and we all got silent. Scott grabbed a bucket of ice and made some ice water to pat on my forehead with a wash cloth. The water in the tub seemed to increase in temperature with each contraction. Soon I was needing to change positions.. but I was scared! I knew I wasn’t loving the position I was in, but what if I moved and found out that position was worse? I glanced at the clock again. It was 2:00.
And while all this was happening, the back and forth in my mind, the increasingly awful contractions, I began to question myself.
“You’re beginning to remember what it was really like, huh?” my midwife remarked.
Hell yeah, I was. Holy shit. I thought I remembered the pain, y’all. I actually feared I remembered it too much prior to going into labor, but THIS was not what I remembered… at least not until I was in the thick of it. THEN I *really* remembered. THEN those sensations that I buried deep within my cerebral cortex came back to me.
And it really scared me. And I asked Scott why I did this again. Why would I ever put myself through this again? Why would he let me? Asshole.
I didn’t think I could handle it, which was exactly how I felt during transition last time, but I had only been in active labor for 45 minutes at that point (active being when the contractions started to ramp up and get painful after my water was broken). This was way too soon to be in trasition already. Transition meant I would be pushing soon, and there was no way I’d be ready to push soon.
And so the mind fuck between the two sides in my head began.
“You can’t do this. It’s too much this time. You’re not even in transition. JUST WAIT until transition. Oh, you are so fucked. You should have done your relaxation exercises.. and your kegels.. and your pelvic rocks!”
“Shut the fuck up. You are FINE. You know why? Because THIS IS transition. Why? Because you think you can’t do it.”
“No. You just really CAN’T do it this time. This isn’t transition. You’ve only been in labor for 45 minute. How on earth could THIS already be transition. And remember pushing? Pushing is going to suck SO hard. SO. HARD.”
“OMG, you’re so right. I forgot about pushing. I DON’T WANT TO PUSH.”
While all this was going on, my midwife suggested I get up and lean over the side of the tub. I hesitated, but knew something had to change, and the only thing that *could* change was my position. I hung my head over the side of the tub and inhaled the fumes of the plastic while my face stuck to it. It started to make me sick… and I was increasingly warm. I knew I wouldn’t last like this long.
I began to feel a lot of pressure down low, but, to be honest, I really thought I was about to poop. I hadn’t had a chance to clean my system out that day. With Kendall, I got all that out of my system before we went to the hospital, but since I didn’t really experience labor up until my water breaking I knew I had plenty in there to dispel still. So… it was looking like we were going to need to use that fishnet we brought. Glorious.
At that moment, like my midwife was reading my mind, or I don’t know… maybe I farted? Maybe she smelled it? Maybe she saw bubbles? She gently suggested maybe, if I was feeling like the tub was too hot, I go ahead and get out and get on the bed, but first, why don’t I go sit on the toilet to see if I need to poop at all. I was, honestly, so relieved she suggested it so I didn’t have to announce to the whole room, “Hey, I think I might take a giant shit here in this tub. Someone please fetch the fish net.”
And so, because I was at the point in labor where one has completely lost every shred of modesty and dignity, I grabbed my husband’s arm and had him escort me to the toilet. For a split second I thought, perhaps, they would close the door and let me do my thing in private. Of course, I was wrong. So there I sat on the toilet, midwife, nurse and husband sitting around me, and I pooped. A big poop. I’m pretty sure it was a smelly poop.
I, the girl who rarely ever even farts in front of her husband (and this actually caused me much anxiety during my first pregnancy), took a giant shit on the toilet while the love of her life held her hand and looked on… and then he offered to wipe for me. Which I guess is a really loving gesture, but totally not one I was willing to take him up on. So, I guess I still had a teensy, tiny, Easter-grass-sized shred of dignity left.
And then something happened after I took this giant, smelly shit in the toilet… which still floated in there, yet to be flushed.
I felt the uncontrollable, unstoppable urge to push. And so I did. I pushed while sitting on top of the toilet filled with poop, like “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” style, like “I Delivered My Baby At Prom” style. And for a brief moment I looked over at my germaphobe husband and could see a look of terror flash through his eyes. OMG, was I about to have this baby in a toilet bowl full of shit?!
As soon as that horrific contraction passed, my nurse and midwife moved swiftly to move me to the bed. “Let’s have this baby!” they exclaimed.
Huh? What? Really? Already? I’M NOT READY TO PUSH!
But clearly, I was. I had no control over it. So I knew I had to move fast, lest I actually do have my baby in a toilet full of shit.
And so, at what I can best estimate was around 2:25-2:30, I got up on to the bed (not fully reclined on my back, more in a sitting up, reverse squat position). And I actually managed to not push for one mini contraction. I breathed through it and told everyone I wasn’t ready yet. I knew the pain was far from over, and I was scared.
But I gave myself a mini pep talk in my head. The only way out of this was through this. The only way to make the pain stop was to give in to the pain and get it over with. It was time to get down to business. It was time to have a baby.
As I felt the next contraction approach, I let everyone know I was ready. It took over me, I made scary noises, guttural noises, noises that didn’t even sound like they were coming from me. I pushed. And I pushed. And I pushed. And HOLYFUCKINGSHIT it hurt. According to my pep-squad, I was doing really well. They promised me she was “right there.”
I don’t know if I just don’t remember very clearly, but I want to say that pushing this time around was much more intense. MUCH more painful. I wanted to die, more than I wanted to while in transition. I pushed for 20 minutes with Kendall. I knew I wouldn’t last that long this time around. There was no way. This baby had to come out. NOW.
The next contraction was the longest I’ve ever experienced. Maybe not if clocked in actual real time. Maybe it was only a minute on a stop watch. But in my space-time continuom, at that moment, it lasted an hour. And I pushed the entire time. And the dialogue in my head went something like this:
“OMG,OMG,OMG YOU. ARE. GOING. TO. DIE. What is that sensation? I think you are ripping completely in half. I think your clitoris is about to pop off. You are going to have ONE HOLE down there when this is all over. GET IT OUT. GET IT OUT. GET IT OUT. BREATHE. BREATHE. BREATHE. Ring of fire. Ring of fire. RING OF FIRE IS LASTING FOREVER. GET IT OUT OF THE RING OF FIRE!!”
With one final mini push of that big, long, worst minute of my life contraction, her head came out. I was completely oblivious at the time, but apparently her cord was wound around her neck and she was blue. Scott said the midwife was quick as a flash and had it off of her in seconds. Then she told me I needed to push the shoulders out.
I STILL HAVE TO PUSH OUT MORE?! Is what my face was saying. Although my actual voice was just saying, “UGHHNNNGHHHRAWWWRRR”… I think.
I still felt like I had a mountain to climb. I was so lost in the moment that I didn’t realize once I pushed those shoulders out, I was done. I would have a baby. This would be over. I just braced myself and gave it all I had.
And just like that, she was here. My nurse told me to open my eyes, and at that moment they plopped her on my chest. Yes, all slimy and covered in goo. I didn’t care. She was out. She was… perfect, and we named her Leyna Lorelei Krause.
I recall thinking she was so squishy. I couldn’t see her face very well at first, but her body was ripe with chubby rolls. NO wonder it felt like giving birth to a jack-o-lantern. She was quite the round pumpkin. I barked at Scott to get the camera.
And suddenly it was all worth it. She was alert, she was healthy, the pain had passed (well, relatively speaking), and I knew I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way (except maybe I’d leave out the pooping in front of everyone part if I could do it all over). Time of birth- 2:38, about 2 hours after we checked into the hospital. About 1.5 hours after my midwife broke my water and my “active” labor started. It was a super intense, really painful 1.5 hours, but I’ll take it!
The damage? Oh, I was so convinced they were going to need to take me in for surgery to repair the carnage down there. Wouldn’t you know, though, that 9 lb 9 oz little girl, who I thought ripped me in half, only gave me one tiny 1st degree tear. According to my midwife, my pushes were “very controlled,” which is odd because I felt anything but controlled in the moment, but go body for knowing what to do, I guess.
Early on in this pregnancy, I worried quite a bit about where I should deliver and who I should deliver with. I was apprehensive about delivering at a hospital, but knew a birth center or home birth just wasn’t the right choice for me. I did my best to find a midwife who I felt would work with me to achieve a healthy, med-free birth (leaving the OB I started with at 20 weeks), and I wound up delivering at Baylor, Dallas. Let me tell you all, I could not be happier. I thought my hospital/midwife experience with Kendall was so great that surely I wouldn’t be so lucky to replicate it. I was wrong. I think my experience with my midwife and delivering at Baylor was actually even better.
I felt so supported 100% of the way. Not a single nurse balked at my med-free plan, never the word epidural was mentioned. The breastfeeding support after having Leyna was phenomenal. I was visited by 3 lactation consultants in a 24 hour period… just to see how things were going. It really renewed some of my faith in the system. You CAN have a healthy, med-free birth in a hospital, but you really have to do your research and work hard to find a provider and a hospital that you are 120% confident will support you. And you need to prepare. You have to educate yourself.
Despite how much I thought I’d want to stay in the hospital forever and ever before returning to the chaos of real life with a toddler, we left after only 24 hours. Why? Well, for one, I couldn’t get a damn wink of sleep there. And? I missed my little boy. A lot.
You might think this is the end of the story, but just like last time, there’s a lot left to tell still. Stay tuned for “the rest of the story, take 2.”
Kendall is 2 and 2/3 and Leyna is 7 days old